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Riverside’s 2017-18 Gilbert Street Season

June 7, 2017 - 11:07 AM

With an upcoming season of contemporary work, Riverside focuses on resounding theatre for our moment.

 Riverside Theatre’s 2017–18 Gilbert Street season of six contemporary plays will provide intimate glimpses into human experience. By equal measures comic and serious, realistic and imaginative, the season will explore the intricate play of interactions and the possibilities of art. Two shows reimagine historical moments, two test the limits of collaboration and one is a one-woman world premiere. All take, at their core, the question of what our humanity means and allows.

 Stephen Sachs’s “Bakersfield Mist,” a rapid-fire comedy with a history of smash-hit productions around the world, will open the season, running September 8 through 24. Inspired by real events, “Bakersfield Mist” tells the story of Maude Gutman, an irrepressible out-of-work bartender living in a ramshackle trailer park, who is certain that the thrift-store painting she bought for spare change is in fact a priceless Jackson Pollack masterpiece. When a prim and pompous art expert comes by to make his appraisal, the two clash in a fiery and hilarious debate over class, truth, value and the purpose of art.

 Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation,” a playfully poignant off-Broadway hit lauded by “The New York Times” and “The New Yorker,” will run from October 27 through November 12. In an artsy small town not so unlike Iowa City, a peculiar group of unassuming strangers meet in a community drama class: a freshly divorced carpenter, a disenchanted high school junior, an ex-actress, and the instructor’s husband. Offbeat, charming, and awkward, six weeks of theatre games unfold. As the group’s relationships shift and a romance buds, the silly games reveal long-kept secrets and untapped feelings, generating some real drama. 

 David French’s intimate period piece “Salt-Water Moon” will play from December 1 through 17. Winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award and the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Drama, “Salt-Water Moon” is a story for anyone who has been young and in love. The First World War has ended and the small farming villages of Newfoundland are slowly emptying as young men and women clamber for the city’s opportunities. One moonlit night, two former lovers confront each other. Where will the evening take them? The stakes are their future together--or forever apart.

 Michael Hollinger’s “Opus,” winner of the Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play and the Steinberg New Play Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association, will run from January 19 through February 11. “Opus” chronicles the ups and downs of the renowned but turbulent Lazara Quartet, who have fired their erratic second violinist nearly on the eve of a performance at the White House. To take his place, the remaining three hire Grace, a promising musician who must navigate the older artists’ heartbreaks and power plays. Dynamic, rife with revelatory flashes, and peppered with Beethoven and Bartok, “Opus” challenges what we know about art and each other.

 Jennifer Fawcett’s “Apples in Winter,” winner of the National New Play Network’s Smith Prize, will make its world premiere at Riverside from February 23 through March 11, with a subsequent production at Centenary Stage Company. Fawcett’s “Goat Show” and “Birth Witches” have both seen acclaimed productions at Riverside. “Apples in Winter” follows Miriam as she makes a pie for her son. He is on death row, and this is the last pie she will make for him. Tender and funny, “Apples in Winter” is a play about mothers and sons, about how we care for each other, and about how to make a really good apple pie. 

 Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” will play from April 13 through 29 accompanied by events and talkbacks around Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and civil rights. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Play, “The Mountaintop” vividly and humanely imagines Dr. King Jr.’s final night. Following his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, Dr. King retires to the Lorraine Motel, where he calls room service for coffee and cigarettes. When Camae, a maid on her first shift, arrives, the two forge an unexpected bond. Over the night, they joke, flirt, dream and confront the fate of our nation. Fusing naturalism and fantasia, theatrical invention and spiritual quest, “The Mountaintop” reaches a summit that will leave audiences breathless.  

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